The practicalities of work and home life

Cancer can affect your ability to carry on with your usual work, home life and relationships.

You may need to change the way you work or stop altogether while you’re having treatment. This can be a difficult adjustment and may cause money worries.

Your role within the home may change. You may not be able to carry out the same tasks as you used to. This can be hard to accept and may affect your self-esteem.

Cancer can put a lot of strain on your relationship. Some couples may become closer due to cancer, but it can also cause problems. There is no right way to cope with cancer. How you and your partner deal with it will depend on your individual personalities and life experiences.

It is important to communicate with the people who you are close to. It may help to speak to people who have been through similar situations. Support is available to help you.

Work

Cancer and its treatment can affect your ability to work. Some people can carry on working, either full-time or part-time, during treatment, but you may find that you want or need to give up work.

When either you or your partner has been diagnosed with cancer, you may want to give up work in order to cope with the cancer and its treatment, or to look after your partner. If work has been the major focus of your life, it can be difficult for you and your partner to adjust to one of you not working. If you are both at home all day, it will take time to get used to being with each other all of the time.

You may find that you can’t continue working because of the cancer or the treatment. Or you may have to work shorter hours or different days. Cancer is covered by the Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales or the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland. This means that an employer can’t discriminate against anyone who has cancer or has had cancer in the past. Employers have a duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to workplaces to make sure people with a disability aren’t at a disadvantage to other people. If you’re caring for someone with cancer, you have the right to request flexible working.

A diagnosis of cancer can affect your finances and may cause money problems. This can put a strain on your relationship and can be hard to cope with, especially when you are already coping with the cancer and its effects. You may find that you need to carry on working as much as possible for financial reasons.

Many people can give you advice on your financial situation. Getting some advice early on may save you a lot of time and energy. You can speak to the social worker at the hospital, your local Jobcentre office and your local Citizens Advice. It may help to contact an independent financial adviser, as they can assess your individual situation and recommend the best course of action.

Our sections on help with the cost of cancer and work and cancer provide more details. We also have information on working while caring for someone with cancer.


Household issues

Cancer and its treatments often change a person’s role in their family. During and after treatment, you may not have the physical energy to do the jobs around the house that you did before. Your partner may feel that they have to take on more or adjust to a new role within the household.

Relatives, friends and neighbours may lend a hand, and sometimes this can leave you with a sense of not being needed or not having control over your life. But it’s helpful to remember that for some people, fulfilling their role as a mum, dad or breadwinner is an important part of their self-esteem.

If you’re the partner of someone with cancer, you may feel tired from having to do more and may even feel resentful at times. This is a normal reaction. You are going through your own experience of the cancer even though it is not you who’s been diagnosed.

It’s important to talk to one another about how you feel and what you think is important. Together you can plan what tasks need to take priority and what help you may need.

For more information about caring for someone with cancer, you can read our information for carers.


Your relationship after cancer treatment

For some people, life after cancer treatment may mean that no other treatment is needed and they are cured of their cancer. For others, it may mean continuing to live with cancer and the possibility of needing more treatment in the future.

You’re likely to feel relieved that your treatment is finished and keen to get back to the life you had before cancer. You may also be thinking about how you can make the most of your health, or about positive changes you can make to the way you live.

The impact of having cancer does not always end when your treatment finishes. It’s important to give yourself time to adjust to life after cancer. The long-term consequences of cancer and its treatment include both physical and emotional effects, such as fatigue, body image issues and feelings of isolation.

It will be important for your partner to support you even after treatment has ended, because of the physical and emotional impact that cancer can have even when treatment is finished.

Some couples become closer as a result of sharing the experience of cancer. However, cancer can put a lot of strain on a relationship. Problems sometimes develop, even between close and loving couples who’ve been together for a long time.

Even if you’ve finished treatment, there is support available for you. Speak to your GP, or call the Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00.


Things for you and your partner to think about

  • There is no ‘right’ way to cope with cancer. How you and your partner deal with it will depend on your individual personalities, your life experiences, and how each of you copes with difficult situations.
  • Remember that a diagnosis of cancer often causes you to experience a wide variety of feelings. You and your partner may react differently and feel different things at different times.
  • Talk about how you feel: talking about cancer can be an important way to help you both cope with it. It’s also just as important for you to listen to each other.
  • Speak to others in a similar situation who may understand what you’re going through and may be able to offer tips to help you.
  • Write down how you feel. You may want to try one of the tools on the Think about your life website.
  • Plan activities together. Set aside time to spend with each other to do things you enjoy.
  • Let your partner know what they can do to support you: whether it’s practically or emotionally.
  • Talk to a professional. Get the support you both need to cope with this situation. Call the Macmillan Support Line for confidential information and support.
  • Speak to one of our Financial Guides by calling our support line as soon as you can for support with money matters.
  • Remember that the effects of cancer and its treatment may continue long after treatment has ended and you’ll still need understanding and support from your partner.

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